I cannot remember a time in recent years where day 15 was this impactful. There are a number of matches where much is on the line, and this is before we get to the 4 men who may make a bid for the emperor’s cup. Our ace prognosticator, lksumo, has done a wonderful job of laying out the promotion / demotion options left to be sorted out on day 15. Go read that if you have not already.
After all of the work in the early part of week 2, Darwin’s funnel blew to bits on the chaos of day 12, but we still managed 3 Darwin bouts for the final day of sumo this January. I recoil because more than a few of them are rikishi I really want to see do well, but this is the nature of Darwin matches. One man loses and is make-koshi, one man wins and is kachi-koshi.
Then there are the yusho contenders. We get our first look at who will take the wild-card slot with the bug-tussle between Kotonowaka and Abi in the first half. The winner waits for the final match, to see if they get a shot at the cup. If Terunofuji should prevail, there will be a 3-way barnyard brawl for all of the hardware, including the glorious macaron of victory. I am so jazzed, I can hardly write this preview.
What We Are Watching Day 15
Kotokuzan vs Tsurugisho – Kotokuzan comes to visit from Juryo to try his sumo against ailing Tsurugisho, who is already make-koshi. Kotokuzan can finish with double-digits if he can put Tsurugisho in the top division opener today. They have never fought before.
Sadanoumi vs Oho – First of the Darwin matches, this is a rough welcome for shin-maku rikishi Oho, but this is what happens when you run out of stamina in week 2. He has dropped the last 4 in a row, and now he’s facing demotion back to juryo if Sadanoumi can use his superior speed to win today. I hope Otake oyakata works on your endurance, sir. You have a big future ahead of you, and we can’t have you checking out after the middle weekend.
Wakamotoharu vs Akua – With Wakamotoharu already kachi-koshi, this is just for the score, and maybe Akua can scrape together one last win to finish with 5. He’s getting a big boot down the banzuke no matter what, but maybe he can cushion the ride.
Myogiryu vs Ichiyamamoto – Unless Myogiryu turns in a lot better sumo than he did day 14, his return was a complete waste. He’s 5-9 at the moment, and another loss would give him a 5-10 that will see him toward the bottom of the top division in Osaka. Ichiyamamoto with 4-10 may need a win to keep people from considering him for a return to Juryo.
Chiyonokuni vs Kotoeko – Hey, lets take two compact, power-style sumo athletes and make them bash each other about on the final day. One is pretty genki right now, the other looks like he needs an undercarriage rebuild. Oh and make sure they are from 2 of the biggest, best known stables.
Chiyotairyu vs Tobizaru – Matching 6-8 records here, so this is all about who gets to finish with a 7th win and maybe a small demotion for March. I like Tobizaru’s odds on this one, has his 3-1 career advantage would seem to indicate that he has a good formula for dealing with Chiyotairyu.
Kotonowaka vs Abi – The wild-card match, the winner gets a chance at the cup of Terunofuji can beat Mitakeumi in the musubi no ichiban. They have never fought before, and have matching 11-3 records. Both have over-performed this January, and frankly this may be the more exciting match out of the “deciders”.
Hoshoryu vs Aoiyama – Oh my, what have we here. Are they really going to make Hoshoryu grab a double hand full of pasty white dumping meat to pick up his final win? Well, I recall a match with vivid horror where, when confronted with the reality of the situation, brave Harumafuji grimaced and applied a death grip to Aoiyama’s pendulous mammalian protuberances. The reaction was swift and crippling, though I am sure the Yokozuna was forever changed by that moment.
Terutsuyoshi vs Hokutofuji – Which one of these guys will get their 7th win? We know Hokutofuji is in his comfort zone, having used powerful sumo and reached make-koshi. So I think gives a slight edge to Terutsuyoshi. I would like to see him try an inside throw against Hokutofuji, and make it work.
Yutakayama vs Endo – Another pair of 6-8s, these guys along with the prior couple were once on track for Darwin matches, but we will have to watch the slug it out for the 7th win instead. If Endo is not too banged up, this should be his match.
Tamawashi vs Ishiura – I title this: “Just how genki is Ishiura now”. He’s got 10 wins, but if he wants an 11th, he needs to fight someone 9 ranks higher, who has a 3-1 advantage over him. That would be Tamawashi, who snapped a 3 match losing streak to send Ura into a Darwin match.
Tochinoshin vs Ichinojo – What are you going to do with your mega-fauna on the final day? You can’t send them out to graze yet, and if you let them run wild, they may just gather a crowd of fans who want to hug them and take photos. Fun as that may seem, it would be against COVID protocols, and we can’t have that in Japan, now can we? So let’s up the on the clay and make them fight in a Darwin match. They have a 25 match history that favors Tochinoshin 16-9, but in his current condition it may not matter. One thing that is likely, Tochinoshin will not be employing the Sky-crane against 200kg Ichinojo.
Ura vs Chiyomaru – The final Darwin match, and this one is the most worrisome of all. I really would like Ura to score his 8th win today, but frankly I think Chiyomaru deserves it more. Ura has a slight 5-4 edge in their 9 match history, but has struggled against high-mass rikishi this basho. So I think if Chiyomaru can be patient and set him up, Ura is ripe for a thrust down about 20 seconds into the match.
Okinoumi vs Kiribayama – I am sure everyone wants to see these two fine rikishi end with matching 5-10 records. They have had a miserable basho, and I am sure they just want to get in to a nice hot bath and start working toward Osaka.
Wakatakakage vs Onosho – Onosho will finish with at least 10 wins. A win today would give him 11-4, which matches his best ever score in the top division. There is a big difference between an 11-4 at Maegashira 12, and an 11-4 at Maegashira 5, so our junior tadpole has come a long way indeed.
Meisei vs Daieisho – Two more for the “lets get this over and done with” list. We finally get the Komusubi fight nobody has been waiting for, and it’s to see who has the worst record in san’yaku.
Takarafuji vs Takanosho – Sorry, spoke too soon. Should Takarafuji thump Takanosho today, he might just be in contention for the worst final score out of the san’yaku rikishi. I am going to guess Mitakeumi sucked up all of the nutrients at this rank and left the rest of them without any means to power their sumo.
Chiyoshoma vs Shodai – I will be honest, Shodai, as an Ozeki, has been relegated to fighting a Maegashira 5 on the final day, and I feel embarrassed for him. I can see why he has been moved aside for a contender who is actually showing up each day with some powerful sumo, but it’s got to sting the lone surviving Ozeki quite a bit. Maybe this is as good an indication as any what the promotion committee my have in mind. Should Chiyoshoma win, they would end with matching 5-10 scores. Ouch.
Terunofuji vs Mitakeumi – The “Brawl To End It All”, If Mitakeumi wins, he takes his 3rd yusho, and I would guess a promotion to sumo’s second highest rank. I don’t expect him to win. He’s not good against Terunofuji (4-12) and even though he is in top form for him, there is a lot that will happen to distract him tomorrow. The thought of the yusho and all it brings must weigh on his mind. The biggest change Mitakeumi has is what I suspect is fresh damage to Terunofuji’s left knee. The signs are there, but well hidden. I am sure he is going to try as hard as he can to set that aside and fight with overwhelming Kaiju power tomorrow. But if he wins, he needs to win at least one more match after that. A tough man who may be in that much pain. An ultimate sumo day ahead of us, dear readers, I would not miss it for the world!